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Richard Straus Family Collection

Identifier: AR 25680

Scope and Content Note

The Richard Straus Family Collection documents the lives and notable experiences of the diplomat Richard Straus and his family members, including his wife Elaine and son Alan as well as more distant family members. Focuses of the collection includes information on the daily lives of diplomats and their families, family members' immigration experiences, and the deaths of Richard and Elaine Straus.

Much of the collection, including its first series, centers on Richard Straus's role as a consul in Vienna and Newfoundland and his related work for the Department of State or other agencies. Series I includes documents related to his international work, such as those from his study at George Washington University's School of Foreign Service, several folders of his writing, including articles and reports, and some travel diaries by both Richard and Elaine. Series I also holds the couple's substantial correspondence, with many of their letters home to Richard's parents including extensive commentary on social engagements, in addition to mention of travel related to Richard's role as consul or of some aspects of his work and interaction with colleagues or government officials. Series I additionally holds an assortment of documents related to other aspects of the couple's lives, including official documents such as passports and marriage and birth certificates and documents related to Richard Straus's military service.

The deaths of Richard and Elaine Straus, and the accident that led to Richard's death and Elaine's hospitalization, are also a prominent subject of Series I. Included are condolences, funeral guest books, obituaries and memorials, in addition to some documentation on the legal case against the driver who caused the accident and Elaine's medical care.

Series II holds the papers of Richard and Elaine Straus's son Alan. These documents pertain to Alan Straus's early years and education. In addition to items such as baby books and school documents, this series includes some materials that relate to the anti-war and social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. Such documents include his essays written for school and university courses as well as posters from events such as anti-war protests.

The emigration of members of the Straus, Heimberger, and Niedermann family members is documented in Series III. Such material includes correspondence with family members left behind in Europe, including those family members in concentration camps in France. Particular emphasis is on the experiences of Richard Straus's nephew Paul Niedermann, whose material includes biographical articles in addition to correspondence. Official documents for many family members are also contained in Series III, including for those family members who came to the United States, such as Richard Straus's parents, Julius and Gertrude Straus, and his uncle, Emil Heimberger. Series III also includes genealogical information on the various branches of the family.

Series IV holds the family's prolific photographs. Although the bulk of the photographs focus on Richard, Elaine, and Alan Straus, many extended family members are also featured among the collection's photographs. In addition, some photographs show consular or State Department events with government officials or Richard Straus's colleagues. Other subjects include locations visited by family members, including many photographs of Newfoundland. Series IV also contains a small amount of other visual materials, such as postcards kept as travel mementos and World War I memorabilia.


  • Creation: 1925-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-1986


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in English and German, with a small amount of French.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Reserve" button.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Photograph of Richard and Elaine Straus with baby Alan Straus" href="" show="embed" title="Photograph of Richard and Elaine Straus with baby Alan Straus"/>

Richard Siegmund Straus was born on December 28, 1925 in Karlsruhe, Germany, the only son of the bank director Julius Straus and his wife Gertrude (née Heimberger). Richard's early education in Karlsruhe was at the Grund- und Hauptschule Karlsruhe, Volkschule Karlsruhe, and the Gymnasium Karlsruhe. In 1938 his father Julius Straus was sent to the concentration camp Dachau and Richard Straus forced to leave school. In July 1939 Julius and Gertrude Straus sent Richard on a Kindertransport to Wales while they acquired immigration visas for the United States with the support of Julius Straus's cousin, Joseph Smith, in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Richard spent his year in Wales attending the Garw Secondary School until he was able to join his parents in Baltimore.

In Baltimore, Richard Straus studied at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute until his graduation in 1944. During these years he worked part-time in a textile factory to support his family, while his father worked as a painter. Gertrude Straus eventually found work as a dietician and head cook at the Talmudic Academy of Baltimore. In July of 1944 Richard was inducted into the United States Army and the following October became an American citizen. While in the military he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Remagen, and later worked as an interpreter for the American occupation forces.

After his discharge from the military in September 1946, Richard Straus attended night courses at George Washington University's School of Foreign Service, from which he received his Bachelor's degree in 1950. He also worked in civil service, first at the Pentagon, and after 1948 at the State Department. While at the State Department he met his future wife, Elaine Scharoff, who had been working as a secretary there.

Elaine Scharoff, born Lillian Sprina Scharoff, had grown up in Rochester, New York, having been raised first by her grandparents and later by her cousins. After high school she worked for the civil service during World War II, until she was transferred to the Pentagon in 1946, and later moved to a position at the State Department. Richard and Elaine married on December 29, 1951, but by the end of January Richard had been sent to Bonn, Germany, for his work with the State Department. On November 1, 1952 their son Alan was born in Baltimore.

From 1958-1963 Richard Straus served as a consul at the American embassy in Vienna, Austria; during these years he was also on the Board of Trustees of the American International School in Vienna. From 1965-1966 he was Senior State Department Representative at the National Military Command Center, and from 1966-1968 Deputy Director of the Office of Canadian Affairs at the Department of State and Secretary of the Permanent Joint Defense Board for the United States and Canada. Then from 1968 to 1972 he was general consul in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. While general consul in Newfoundland he also continued his education, receiving a Master's degree in History from Memorial University in 1972. From 1972 through 1978 he was director of the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' Western European Division. In this position he helped to develop the Fulbright Commission Program, including making agreements with Japan, Spain, and Germany. He was also a Foreign Service inspector in Mexico.

In 1979 Richard Straus retired from the State Department; that same year Germany awarded him the Große Verdienstkreuz (Greater Cross of Merit) and Spain the Orden de Isabel la Católica (Order of Isabella the Catholic), both awards of merit for service to the respective nations. In the following years he then worked as an advisor to the German and Canadian embassies on cultural and educational matters, as a director the Carl Duisburg Society, and as an advisor at the Ford Foundation and the German Marshall Fund. In 1980 he became the American representative of the International Institute of Communication, in 1982 a Program Officer of the Visitor Program Service of Meridian House International, and in 1983 director of the Committee on International Tele-Education.

In addition to his professional appointments, Richard Straus wrote articles for newspapers such as Aufbau and the Allgemeine jüdische Wochenzeitung as well as for professional publications such as the Department of State Bulletin and the Foreign Service Journal. He also worked as a translator for various organizations. In 1962 his book Coal, Steel, Atoms, and Trade: the Challenge of Uniting Europe was published. In 1982 his book Communications and International Trade: a Symposium was published, with him as editor. He also worked on projects for the West German government reviewing the presentation of Jewish and National Socialist-era history in West German school textbooks.

On October 4, 1986, Richard and Elaine Straus were hit by a drunk driver on their way to Rosh Hashanah services in Baltimore. Richard Straus died that day, while Elaine Straus was hospitalized for months and only learned of his death two weeks after the accident. She passed away two years later.


5 Linear Feet


This collection contains the documents of diplomat Richard Straus, his wife Elaine, and his son Alan in addition to documentation on his extended family members, especially including members of the Straus, Heimberger, and Niedermann families. The most prominent topics in the collection relate to Richard Straus's role as diplomat, family members' emigration and Holocaust experiences, and Alan Straus's early life, although material relating to family members' lives in Germany prior to the 1930s is also present. The collection includes extensive personal family correspondence and photographs; official, educational, and professional documents; family members' writings as well as articles about them; childhood and educational memorabilia; and documentation related to the deaths of family members.

Related Material

The LBI Archives includes the related collection Familienbuch des Geschlechtes Strauß in Grombach (AR 5551).

Separated Material

Several books and some publications with articles were removed from the collection. Two books by Richard Straus were removed to the LBI Library: Coal, Steel, Atoms, and Trade: the Challenge of Uniting Europe and Communications and International Trade: a Symposium. Photocopies were retained in the archival collection of title pages of these books and any handwritten notes

Duplicates of photocopied documents, articles, and photographs were removed from the archival collection during processing.

A CD was removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection.

Approximately one linear foot of objects was removed to the LBI Art and Objects Collection. It consisted of items such as family medals, jewelry, badges and patches, peace pins from the 1960s, and other family memorabilia.

Processing Information

During the processing of the archival collection, it was organized into series and subseries. Duplicates of photocopied documents, articles, and photographs were removed from the archival collection during processing, and published books were removed to the LBI Library.

Guide to the Papers of the Richard Straus Family 1925-2000 AR 25680
Processed by Dianne Ritchey and Dahlia Japhet
© 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Richard_Straus_Family.xml

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States